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Happy Turkey Day Serinity 14-15

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Happy Turkey Day Serinity 14-15

Postby SerinitysChild » Tue Nov 22, 2011 12:37 pm

Chapter 14

Serinity stands on the balcony of her room, staring up at the nearly conjoined moons. For the past hour, the smaller moon has been sidling up to the larger moon, merging its light with that of its bigger sister. Eldrus is the smaller moon, the little sister of the sky, her light moving quickly across the darkness, and she’s often called Night’s Arrow. Minvera, the larger moon, travels ponderously, her movement regal in nature, as befits her stature as Night’s Guardian.

While Serinity watches, the moons join in the heavens nearly drowning the lights of the myriad stars. Smaller Eldrus moves cautiously across the face of Minvera, until, for one precious second, the pair form a perfect unity with Eldrus centered in Minvera. For that one second, magic power flows from the moons to the world, reviving the Powers of Light, and the Powers of Darkness, for another five years.

Sighing contentedly, Serinity feels the magic flow into her, filling her with joy and sadness. She can feel the joy of a cup that over flows with summer wine, and the sadness of knowing that many will quickly consume the wine.
Below Serinity’s balcony, behind the stables, Darganath lifts his muzzle high, opens his mouth, and launches his voice skyward. Joy and might combine to make his voice beautifully thrilling while simultaneously shadowing it with darkness. His piercing call tells the world that another dragon has come of age.

**********


Euriptus, standing in the mouth of his cave, watching the moons, hears the sound of Darganath announcing his presence. Pulling his silk robe tighter around him, he shivers as the dragon’s voice echoes across the valley, filling the world with his joy.

Sighing at the thought that one day the dragon he created to terrorize the land will now probably terrorize him, Euriptus returns to his bed while the rest of the world celebrates the union of the moons. Tomorrow is going to be another long day.

**********


Milesport settles into its joyous celebration of another conjunction of the moons. Parties, both private and public, dominate the night. The town’s people fill the air with the sounds of revelry. Drummers carry the beat of the music as bagpipes skirl jubilant music in combination with triumphant trumpets.

The parties will last well into the morning with only a few businesses being open the following day. The day after tomorrow the countryside will return to its business, but for this one night become day, joy is universal.

**********


Two days after the celebrations, Pearim holds his head high, while wishing he could hold it in his hands to make the throbbing go away. Too much summer wine, too many moon cakes, and way too many dancing partners, have conspired together to bring a pounding headache, a bad taste in his mouth, and a few happily remembered moments.

As he focuses his mind on today’s business, he realizes that some of the pounding isn’t going on in his head, but actually going on at the front gate. With a muttered, “Who’d be silly enough to tempt fate by pounding on my gate?” Pearim motions the day guard to see who’s defiling his peace.

As the guard opens the gate, then stumbles back in surprise, an Orc, all seven feet of him, steps quietly through the sally. Dragon scale armor, made from real dragons’ scales, covers the giant from gorget to mid-thigh, leaving the arms, legs and feet covered in mail so finely wrought it looks like rippling water when the wearer moves. On his head is a helmet pierced on either side with small holes to hear commands through, and a nose guard with cheek plates covering all but his eyes and mouth. Across his back hangs an axe that only an Orc, or a giant, can carry. On his left arm is a shield of bright metal embossed with a sun sigil.

The Orc’s manner is not as diffident as Pearim would like, but then, neither is it as aggressive as Pearim has always heard Orcs can be. Bravely stepping up to the Orc, Pearim looks up into its eyes, tries to swallow, and demands to know the Orc’s business.

By tilting his head down, the Orc can look into Pearim’s eyes, seeing both the bravery of the man, and the fear engendered by the Orc’s presence. Smiling past his six-inch tusks, the Orc rumbles, “We’re here at the direct summons of our Lady Serinity. Would you be kind enough to inform her that ‘the hundred’ have answered her call?”

The major domo returns to the house, muttering, “Lynx, dragons, and now Orcs. Is there no sanity in this world?”

Before Pearim can open the front door, Serinity jerks it open, then laughs with the same joy a small child would have when receiving a present. Nodding to Pearim, Serinity runs down the steps, across the lawn, and then jumps into the waiting arms of the Orc.

“Lady,” comments the Orc, while returning Serinity’s hug, “it’s unseemly for a person, such as you, to display such affection in this manner.” After a long second, Grabaug sets Serinity on her feet, then bows formally to her.

As the Orc bows to her, Serinity peeks through the sally, seeing many Orcs around whom she grew up. They’re older now, and a bit more scarred, but still the best friends one can have when the world turns ugly.

“Oh stand up straight, Grabaug. No need to bow to me, especially since we’ve shed blood together.” Tall as Serinity is, she still has to reach up to affectionately touch the Orc’s shoulder. “Now, Captain, did you bring everything I asked for?”

Grabaug turns to the sally, and in his best parade ground voice bellows, “Enter!” As the gate smashes open, Grabaug grins like a wolf in the middle of a pack of sheep. “Step lively lads. The lady is impatient to see her pretties.”

Ninety-nine Orcs step in a single file through the gate, each leading either an ox or a mule. They have festooned each pack animal with panniers of food, bags of clothing and armor, poles for tents, steel weapons and steel tipped arrows, and the many accouterments of a traveling military force.

Behind the mercenaries, young Orcs are herding a small herd of horses and cattle, and behind them the wives and children of the warriors drive well-worn travel wagons. Above the first wagon, a long pole holds a light blue flag on which they have embroidered in black a closed mailed fist upraised in defiance of the world.

As the house guards open the gates wider to allow the caravan in, Serinity gasps at the number of Orcs invited onto the property. By count, she can see three hundred women, some carrying babies, and a hundred teenage children herding the draft animals.

While the Orcs trample the manicured lawn, Pearim sighs, and wonders if there’s any summer wine left in the kegs. Celin is not going to be happy with Serinity, once she finds out that they have uprooted her garden to feed Orcs.

After the last wagon has cleared the gate, Pearim nods to the guard to shut the gate, knowing that the Governor will want a full accounting of today’s deeds. Impressive as the town’s guard is, they’re no-match for armed, and armored Orcs. Smiling grimly, Pearim can almost hear the questions now.

Grabaug gives orders, and the Orcs quickly set up camp on the front lawn. Surprisingly, the herd animals have damaged only a few of the ornamental flowers. However, they obliterate the summer garden as the herders move the stock into the stable area.

While they are moving the horses to the north end of the stable yard, Darganath leans over the stable and sniffs delicately at the animals. Before she can catch one up for a light snack, a young Orc lifts his herding pole and smacks her sharply on her nose. Arching her neck and pulling her head back indignantly, Darganath is about to flame this insolent being, then remembers she’s a guest in her companion’s house. A disgruntled sniff settles black soot on the offending Orc, and then Darganath returns to her cartload of fish.

Before Pearim can seek the solace of summer wine, someone is again pounding the gate’s sally. Wearily nodding to the guard, the major domo watches as a squad of Duke’s guard march stiffly onto the property. They’re followed closely by the Duke’s appointed Governor, Sir Rodney Bailee.

Governor Bailee is the quintessential politician. He stands a head shorter than Pearim, and that head is bald. If one imagines a fat, bald, irritating rat in pale lavender robes, which constantly washes his hands together, then one will have a good idea as to the appearance of Governor Bailee. Beady black eyes squint at the world with greed glittering in them. The robes of office have never seen a washerwoman’s wrinkled hands, nor have they ever been touched by soap and water. All and all, Governor Bailee is greasy, slick, sweaty, irritating, and has visions of grandeur. He has only one redeeming quality. He’s the Duke’s nephew.

Pearim bows deeply to Sir Bailee, then stands straight while asking, “How may House Artris serve the Duke’s Governor?” The main reason Pearim is working as major domo of House Artris, and not leading a battalion of soldiers, is the fat man in front of him. That and his inability to refrain from telling people what he thinks of the man in front of him.

“You can start by telling me why I shouldn’t have you slapped in irons and hung as a traitor.” Milesport’s Governor waxes poetic in his threats, promising dire repercussions on Lady Celin, her family, her descendants, and any other miscreant he happens to find crawling around her property. While the Governor rants on with his threats, Grabaug marches up behind Pearim and stands at ease, listening to the Governor’s threats.

As the diatribe winds down, Grabaug clears his throat while adjusting the hang of his great battle-axe, shifting its handle to a more accessible angle. When his actions bring no recognition from the Governor, Grabaug steps beside Pearim, grins at the Governor’s guard, and then interrupts the vitreous abuse Sir Bailee is pouring on Pearim.

Reaching into a wide pouch strapped to his side, Grabaug removes a gold sealed, heavily beribboned letter. He fastidiously dusts it off, and proffers it to Sir Bailee. “His majesty, Duke Esrailess, Duke of Riverbend, father of Lady Serinity, Son of King Ralph the Fifth, First Knight of the Empire, Holder of both the Sword and the Scepter of the Orc Kingdom, sends his greetings, sir.”

Timidly, as if the letter might suddenly grow teeth and bite him, Sir Bailee accepts the missive, and then carefully breaks the embossed seal. With trembling hands he unfolds the letter and reads the ancient script still used at court.

“To the Governor of Milesport, I give greetings. It is my sincere hope that the sudden arrival of a small contingent of my forces will not unduly trouble you. Their presence in the King’s town of Milesport, we hope will not especially disturb the peace you preserve in the King’s name.”

“At my daughter’s request, I have ordered these forces to assist her in her investigation of certain ancient legends. Being a devoted father, I tend to over indulge my daughter. However, she has become a fount of wondrous stories, bringing to light the small grains of truth all ancient tales hold.”

“I request that you render any and all assistance to her in her quest. This assistance will, of course, be reimbursed upon receipt of supporting documentation. Extraordinary times call for extraordinary actions sir, and, if my daughter is correct in her assessment of an ancient myth, we are most definitely in extraordinary times.”

“Cordially yours, Duke Esrailess, Duke of Riverbend, father of Lady Serinity, Son of King Ralph the Fifth, First Knight of the Empire, Holder of both the Sword and the Scepter of the Orc Kingdom.”

Pearim has seen rats cornered by constrictors, and the look on the Governor’s face is a match for the cornered rat’s unblinking stare. Fear of Duke Esrailess dilates his beady black eyes. One hundred years of stories becoming legends have entertained, and awed, the people of the Empire. Duke Esrailess, also known as Esrailess the Half Orc, holds a prominent place in the Empire’s history. No one has ever crossed him, and lived to tell the tale.

“Uh,” the Governor’s voice strains to connect meaningful words into a sentence. “I see. Well, if the Duke of Riverbend requests that we ‘assist’ his daughter in her adventure, then assist we will.”

Returning his attention to Pearim, and completely ignoring the Orc Captain standing at the major domo’s side, Sir Bailee wonders if he can browbeat the ex Major of the Duke’s Guard into subservience. “Probably not,” he mutters.

“Please see that we give Lady Serinity every courtesy in her quest.” Bailee, having discharged the Duke’s request, turns on his heel, heading for the gate. With a quick jerk of his head, he commands the guard sergeant to follow him.

As the Governor leaves the property of House Artris, Grabaug grins down at Pearim. “I don’t think his lordship is very pleased with having to ‘accommodate’ Lady Serinity. Perhaps we’d best persuade her to be about her business before he gathers enough nerve, and men, to become a problem?”

Pearim looks up at the big Orc, nods, and then asks, “How would you like to share a bottle of summer wine?”




Chapter 15



The study in House Artris is open to the outside winds that play along the port town’s streets. Tea service is setting between the two women as they discuss the day’s latest events.

“Really Serinity, I’m not all that disappointed in you, it’s just . . .” Celin is trying very hard to be diplomatic about more than five hundred Orcs encamped on her lawn, but it’s hard for her to be polite after she’s seen her prize roses vanish down a mule’s throat.

Serinity nods knowingly at her friend, and lays twenty rings of gold on the table, next to the tea service. “I hadn’t expected my father to send the families with the hundred mercenaries, nor did I expect herd beasts in the deal. Please accept my apologies, and this token of my thanks for your forbearance.”

Celin stares at the gold rings, knowing that Serinity’s mercenaries have brought four chests filled with gold rings, and wonders if its time to question her about her intentions. Bracing herself, Celin is about to ask some very pointed questions when Serinity beats her to the punch.

“Pearim has probably already told you about the gold I’ve received, and the ship I’ve purchased. Before you can ask, it’s my intent to be away from Milesport as quickly as possible. It seems that daddy upset the local Governor, and he’s probably plotting his revenge as we speak. I’m not looking for trouble here, and I mean no harm to you and yours, however, I think you have a right to know my plans.”

Reaching out her right hand, Serinity pulls the bell cord to summon a servant. When the servant arrives, she asks that Pearim, Ashera, and Captain Grabaug be found and that they join Celin and her in the study.

“I hate telling stories repeatedly, so, if you don’t mind, I’ll have everyone concerned gathered so I only have to tell the story once.” Serinity lifts a warm cup of herbal tea to her lips and takes a small sip. Grimacing, she wonders if she’ll ever get used to the bitter taste of sassafras.

When they are all gathered, drinks and sweets are distributed. After they have settled. Serinity quickly retells the story of the Wizard’s War, and the resulting finding, and losing, of the sword Ascension. Taking a deep breath, she launches into her plans.

“Several years ago, I was involved with a fortune hunter. We’d tracked down several ancient sites of magical power, fought the usual battles with guardian spirits, and gathered several grimoire, a myriad of magical objects, jewels and gold from various types of magic users. After dividing the spoils, I offered to buy the books that were his shares of the loot. Having no use for the printed word, and a great interest in a particular diamond that was part of my spoils, we quickly arrived at an agreement. Six weeks later, while I’m recovering from wyvern’s poison, I’m decoding a grimoire and accidentally trip a guardian spell.”

“After the guardian and I reached an understanding, during the discussion of which we nearly reduced my house to rubble, I turned my attention to freeing him from his bondage. In return for his freedom, he expanded upon the tome that told of the sword Ascension. His expansion included the fact that the Wizards did not destroy the last of the first owners of my sword Ascension. It was sleep enchanted. From certain agencies I’d rather not discuss, I’ve learned that the last of the Afridale race is free of her sleep spell, and actively looking for my sword. My intention is to present the sword to it, point first.”

Celin leans back in her chair, nods to herself, and then comments, “An interesting story, my dear. However, that doesn’t alleviate the problem at hand. Right now, I have the local Governor plotting trouble not only for you, but also for me as the owner of this property. I really hate to be a wet blanket on your plans, but if I own this property, and all the property next to it, I really can’t have Orcs bivouacked on it.”

Smiling benevolently at Serinity, Celin picks up a few of the gold rings laying on the table, and clinks them together as if she’s counting the value of each coin. As the last circle falls on the others, she returns to her conversation with Serinity.

“As I said, if I own this, and the surrounding property, I cannot condone soldiers that may breach the peace of Milesport. By the by, did I tell you that the guard barracks next to the wall are empty, and that they are still part of House Artris property?” Celin lays the gold rings she’s been playing with next to the small pile of rings Serinity offered her.

“I really can’t take your gold dear, at least not for any mistake made in your name. However, I have been looking for a buyer of my property in Milesport.” As Celin touches one gold ring, she smiles up as Serinity and adds, “if someone were to offer me, say, a thousand gold rings for my properties here, why I’d be happy to sell it to them.”

While Serinity ponders buying a house she really doesn’t want, Celin turns to Pearim. “Pearim, dear man, would you please find the maps for House Artris? I’m sure they’re here in the study, somewhere.”

Watching Celin out of the corner of her eye, Serinity wonders what game the lady is playing with her. When Pearim has found the plans for the house, Serinity notices that he also holds plans for a much larger property than the house and stable she’s rented.

Celin takes the plans from Pearim and spreads them on the low table between herself and Serinity. Carefully she places cups on the four corners, holding the rolled maps in place. On the top map Celin show the house and stable, gardens and open areas that surround House Artris, then, she rolls that map over, exposing the map below it, and points to a square that covers about an eighth of the map.

“That small square is the house and stable I rented to you, dear. The rest of this bigger square is the included property of House Artris. For a while, I rented the barracks to the town’s guard, but they moved into their new barracks across the street from the Governor’s palace, and now my barracks are empty. As I recall, they’re big enough for a thousand soldiers, or so. There’s also the parade grounds, a smithy and iron works shop, a storage building with a bakery next to it. All in all, it’s a ready-made place for say, an Orc military force, with family and herds. It’s close to the west gate, and has easy access to the open plains for grazing their herds. Oh, and did I tell you that it’s all included with the house?”

“Truly a bargain, Lady Celin.” Serinity can’t help the sarcasm in her voice. She also can’t help looking a gift horse in the mouth. “This may be the perfect solution to a thorny problem. However, I have to ask a few questions about this ‘deal’.”

Studying the map of the entire House Artris area, Serinity has noted three things. The first is that the property is next to, and part of, the town’s defensive west wall. Second, she’s spotted a mapmaker's mark for an escape tunnel that runs under the west wall. Lastly, she sees three marks on the map that place wells she’s sure aren’t on other maps.

“From your maps, I take it that House Artris is as old, or even older than Milesport.” Seeing Celin nod agreement to her statement, Serinity skips all but one question she wants to ask Celin. Her last question is, “Why so cheap? A house this well established, and defended, is worth ten times the price you ask.”

Celin nods again. “Yes, House Artris is worth much more than I’m asking you, for it. About why I’m offering it so cheaply to you, well, first, you need a place to house your militia. I shan’t call them mercenaries. Secondly, now that I’ve heard the reason for your being in Milesport, I wish to help you in your quest. As a child my nanny told me the story of the Afridale race, the Wizards War, and when we have more time, I’ll be happy to give you those details you may or may not know. Lastly, my husband has finally decided that running an inn in this town is more work than it’s worth, so we’re moving up the coast to my other property. I need to sell this house and property for ready cash, and you obviously have the ready cash to buy it.”

Serinity laughs at the honesty of her friend Celin. “Before I take you up on your generous offer, I need to reassure myself that the only thing that will change around here is the owner’s name.” Turning to the major domo, she asks him, “Will you and the staff continue in my service?”

Taken by surprise at Lady Celin’s sudden sale of House Artris, and having wondered what he was to do if she sold his home of ten years, Pearim decides that working for Lady Serinity would not be a dull life. “Yes, Lady Serinity, I’ll stay on your staff. As for the other staff members, I’ll ask them, encourage them, to stay in your employment. However, six of them that I know of will want to follow Lady Celin north to her house there. I can replace them, given time, so, there should be no interruption in service.”

“Excellent!” Serinity is relieved that she’ll have a staff to care for her newly acquired property.

Turning to the Orc’s Captain, she gives orders for the gold to be brought to the house, and that the camp moves into the empty barracks, soonest, and to be careful of the rest of the garden. She also gives Pearim instructions to pay Celin her gold rings for the house, and to convert enough rings to local silver to pay for the ship. Purchase whatever supplies are needed by the house guard, the Orcs, and anyone else for whom she’s responsible.

Since her ploy to unload the property on Serinity is now a done deal, Celin pushes herself to her feet, and then hugs the green skinned girl. “Now dear, I really must run. Roun is a good man, makes a great beer, but is all thumbs when it comes to running the Griffin. Drop by before you sail off into your adventure.”

Stepping away from Serinity, Celin steps close to Pearim and whisper to him, “Take care of her, she’s a good one.” Then, ignoring the major domo’s stiffness, she gives him a quick hug. “You’ve been a good friend Pearim, do come visit us when your duties give you time.” With that done, Celin nods to the other present and walks out of the house she no longer owns.

“That’s one fine Lady,” comments Grabaug. “Too bad she’s not Orc.”

Pearim looks at the Orc, trying to understand if he is complimenting Celin, or insulting her. Before he can decide, Serinity smiles at him.

“Orcs think that mere humans, or any of the other races we share this world with, are beneath Orc dignity. Grabaug has just paid Celin the highest compliment an Orc will ever pay anyone not related to his people.” Chuckling at Pearim’s startled look she adds, “of course, one day he might even think of you as nearly Orc.”
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